Cloud Green Wi-Fi

One of the main enhancements of the next generation of Wi-Fi standard, called Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), is the support for dense wireless networks. By increasing the number of access points deployed in the same area the standard aims at increasing the throughput of Wi-Fi at least 4 times. This improvement comes at a cost for network operators. Increasing access points means increasing power consumption and maintenance requirements. Moreover, the incorrect configuration can result in high interference between neighboring access points and eliminate the benefits brought by deploying a new standard.

A promising solution for simplifying the management of a large number of devices is to connect them to a cloud controller. Many vendors already provide such solutions for enterprise networks, such as Cisco Meraki and Huawei Agile. Cloud management enables seamless roaming between Wi-Fi networks, simplifies initial configuration and even allows reconfiguring the network dynamically based on the network load. Network performance depends on the decisions made by the controller, which are the results of algorithms solving optimization problems. For example, algorithms may change the Wi-Fi channel assignment, traffic priority, and transmission power.

Wireless Networks Lab develops optimization algorithms for dynamic management of transmission power that can optimize for throughput (green curve) or energy efficiency (red curve). The algorithms are implemented in the NS-3 network simulator. Cloud management significantly increases the energy efficiency of Wi-Fi networks in sparse areas and increases throughput in dense areas. This kind of flexibility is important for 5G networks which have irregular topology.

Published results show that cloud management is an essential part of green wireless networks. It can reduce the power consumption of the network and automate its management, making it feasible to deploy a new Wi-Fi standard on a large scale.